Tuesday 7 April, 2020

Public defender blocked from joining anti-buggery law court challenge

When the challenge to Jamaica’s buggery law is finally mounted in the Supreme Court, the man seeking to get it overturned will have to do so alone.

 This, as the Court of Appeal on Friday, upheld a Supreme Court ruling barring Public Defender Arlene Harrison Henry from joining openly gay attorney-at-law, gay rights activist, Maurice Tomlinson in the lawsuit which he has brought.

Friday’s ruling paves the way for the Supreme Court to hear the case after a near two-year delay.

Tomlinson is senior policy analyst at the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network. He has, for several years, been outspoken about what he describes as Jamaica’s antiquated sodomy laws that criminalise sexual relations between persons of the same sex. He has been pushing to get them overturned.

Tomlinson has argued that criminalising homosexuality is a breach of his constitutional rights. He has asserted that it amounts to a direct and blatant denial of equality before the law for him and other gay men.

For its part, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network has described the Appeal Court's ruling as disappointing.

"In a very disappointing decision, the Court of Appeal ruled against the public defender, so now the claimant, Maurice Tomlinson is left alone to fight this case against the government and the religious groups," the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network said in a statement.

“The Supreme Court must schedule a case management conference soon to lay out a timeline and process for getting to a hearing on the merits of the constitutional challenge," the Canadian oraganisation said.

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